9th August 2013; Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Solicitor Advocates today obtained leave from the High Court in Belfast to challenge a decision made by the Chief Parole Commissioner to deny a client in custody at Maghaberry prison an oral hearing. The refusal by the Chief Parole Commissioner was made in circumstances where additional information was available from the Probation Board which may have benefited the prisoner. The Chief Parole Commissioner’s decision to deny the client an oral hearing before a 3 member panel of the Parole Commissioners interfered with the client’s liberty.
The court today granted leave for a full hearing which will take place within the next 7 days. That hearing will consider whether the decision by the Chief Parole Commissioner to refuse an oral hearing to the client on the 29th July 2013 was fair and reasonable in circumstances where HCC Lawyers had advised the CPC that further information was available from the Probation Board for NI which may have assisted their client’s case.
Chris McCann, solicitor, who heads up the firm’s Prison Welfare Department said today;
“This is an important application in ensuring that prisoners’ rights are protected within the Parole Commission process. The High Court granted leave for this application because it deals with the fundamental rights of right to a fair hearing/trial and presumption in favour of liberty. It is crucial that the processes engaged by the Parole Commissioners are transparent and open to court scrutiny. The rationale for the existence of the Parole Commissioners scheme is to ensure that a quasi-judicial body, rather than the Executive, deals with these fundamental rights. The court today, in granting leave, is making it clear that these rights are at issue in this case and must be protected.”